Daily Science Factlet – Hard Water Bread

Hard water. It can be a pain to those who live in an area supplied with it. It scales up kettles and bungs up shower heads. And it turns out that living in a hard water area can also affect how your bread turns out.

When you add water to flour to make bread dough, you begin to create strands of a protein called gluten. It is the gluten that help to trap the CO2 produced by the yeast in the dough and make a light, open texture. The proteins that make up the gluten join end-to-end using strong sulphur bonds, then the strands form a gluten network by forming temporary bonds between the strands along their length.

Hard water contains charged calcium and magnesium ions that stop the charged regions of the strands from repelling each other, and so strengthen the links between them, resulting in a stronger gluten network, and a firmer, denser dough. If a dense loaf is what you’re after, then that’s a good thing, but if you want a light, fluffy loaf, perhaps best to use bottled water instead…

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